Rome is one of the oldest and biggest cities in all of Europe. It is the capital of Italy. It is crowded with tourists, residents, ruins and a whirl of streets, stores and steeples. One of my plans this year was to be able to visit without getting lost. Because Rome’s airport brings in most of our guests, we’ve made several trips to the eternal-ly confusing city. I have sometimes gone through two maps while I’m there. The first can become threadbare after just one long walk.
However, I love Rome. It might be my favorite city in all of Italy. When I’m there I feel happy and energetic and inspired. I always leave wanting more. After each trip, I feel like I’ve just begun.
This week was my fifth extended stay. I met my friend Stacia who arrived Sunday to begin a summer job sailing around Sardinia. During our three days together, we walked down miles of ancient alleys, past innumerable fountains and impromptu piazzas while frequently stopping for drinks and Roman artichokes along the way.
It was a perfect little vacation. The temperatures soared into the 80s; the monuments glowed; the Romans were good to us; and we never got lost. What a great feeling to finally grasp this place.
I kept my sense of direction by trying to visit familiar sights while keeping track of Il Vittoriano along the way. This giant, centrally located, relatively modern landmark is an unfortunate sore spot among Romans. They snidely call it “the wedding cake” or “the typewriter” and remark that the monstrous, snow-white facade is incongruent with the true Roman style. And furthermore, they complain, it blocks the view of the Colosseum. I’ve tried to not like this building because I thought it might help me fit in, but I’ve finally resigned to the opinion that it’s stunning (and easy to find.)
One of my favorite tourist stops in Rome is the glass elevator ride to the roof of the Vittoriano. From there, you can see everything. Stacia and I spent time up there taking photos and getting a lay of the land. Since Rome can often dwarf the wide-eyed tourist, we counteracted by playing “optical illusions” with the camera.
Later, we branched out from the safety of the beaming structure to mingle with a few more of Rome’s defining iconic anchors. We circled Bernini’s sculpture in Piazza Navona, ate gelato in Campo de’ Fiori, walked past the president’s palace at Piazza de’ Quirinale and then, after a look at the crumbling Teatro di Marcello, we ordered the best artichokes ever in the Jewish Ghetto. While we didn’t make any time for museums, some artists are hard to miss. Michelangelo, for one, is everywhere. We visited his Moses masterpiece in San Pietro in Vincoli and also climbed the steps to one of his architectural creations, Piazza del Campidoglio. Then we continued on to more picturesque moments in Rome:
Our final walk led us to the Spanish Steps where we played Where’s Waldo in the crowd (which does not officially count as being lost in Rome). Here are a couple pictures of Stacia. She’s is wearing jeans and a light blue t shirt (see opening photo).
On Tuesday afternoon, we packed up. After parting ways at the train station, I headed back to Perugia. Somehow Rome lingers. I know our traveling days are numbered so I immediately started planning another visit later this month, a quick 24 hour embrace; just one last time to touch the familiar and find something new.